Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass marshalled local, state and federal officials to reopen the Santa Monica (10) Freeway in downtown Los Angeles in record time after it was closed due to damage from an arson fire on Nov. 11.
Thanks to Bass’ leadership, the freeway reopened in both directions on Nov. 20 – two days before the scheduled reopening was planned. The mayor said that the freeway will be continuously monitored to ensure it remains safe for commuters. Also, manual daily surveys will be conducted to monitor any structural shifts or movements.
“This is a great day in our city, and I think it is a wonderful example of how and why we got this job done,” Bass said.
Standing on the still-closed freeway on Nov. 19, the mayor was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris, Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Sen. Alex Padilla when making the announcement about the reopening. At the morning news conference, she praised workers for coming in several days ahead of schedule and hailing the cooperation of government officials at all levels.
“First and foremost, the workforce that worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The numbers of workers on the site here, who doubled and tripled as everyone came together, showing the unity from the White House to the governor, to our senator, all of us standing together to make sure that this got done.”
Authorities assured commuters that the freeway is safe after emergency work to shore up the structure until permanent repairs of scorched support columns can be completed.
“Yes, the 10 is open,” declared Laura Rubio-Cornejo, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, during a morning briefing on the status of the interstate, which carries about 300,000 vehicles a day and connects to other major routes.
The early morning inferno on Nov. 11 was fed by flammable materials stored under the roadway in violation of a company’s lease.
Initial worst-case scenarios raised the possibility that the section of freeway might have to be demolished and rebuilt. Officials then said tests showed it could be repaired in three to five weeks and that, with massive bracing in place, traffic could return much sooner.
Officials said last week that all lanes were expected to reopen by Tuesday, but moved it up after significant progress during around-the-clock work.
“It wasn’t just speed that we were after. We wanted to make sure this thing was safe,” Newsom said at the news conference.
Most of the repair work will be done underneath the road deck, but future lane closures were possible, officials said. The Mayor’s Office said that the Alameda exit will remain closed in the westbound direction, as well as the 8th Street on-ramp to the 10-West.
Also, traffic officers and engineers continue to staff the area to ensure smooth traffic flow and LADOT installed a protected left turn lane at Alameda and Olympic to reduce congestion at the intersection.
Angelenos should visit emergency.lacity.gov for continuous up-to-date information.
The time it took to repair the freeway exceeded the initial estimate because of the collective effort of the city, state and federal government. The City worked diligently from the moment the fire started. That night, more than 100 LAFD firefighters ran towards the danger and worked diligently to put out the fire with 0 injuries.
Working with urgency, Bass directed the Emergency Management Department to issue a wireless emergency alert to ensure Angelenos were aware of the closure – a decision that has been credited for avoiding what could have been mass confusion and gridlock to begin the week.
First thing Monday, Nov. 13, the Mayor’s Business and Economic Development Office and her Office of Community Engagement responded to the scene to survey neighbors and businesses in the area. Her Office of Housing and Homelessness Solutions responded to bring unhoused Angelenos in the area inside, rather than continue old practices of just moving folks down the street while work commenced.
Throughout the week, the mayor implored Angelenos to take Metro – while she and members of her staff did as well. Mayor Bass surveyed traffic from the air with Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Kristin Crowley to see both the morning and evening rush hour traffic.
Throughout it all, the Mayor directed the Los Angeles City Department of Transportation to take active steps to mitigate traffic especially as rain approached:
- Deployed additional white glove traffic officers
- Made street adjustments to traffic corridors, including adding a protected left turn lane on Alameda Street.
- Made public transportation routes along the 10 faster
- Made LADOT busses free
On Friday, Nov. 17, the mayor stood alongside downtown business owners and leaders and announced that the following support and resources are being made available for businesses impacted by the 10 closure:
- Mayor Bass directed the Economic Workforce and Development Department to launch a micro-enterprise grant program. Applications remain open until midnight on December 10.
- The City’s Business Source Centers are assessing and surveying businesses in the immediately impacted area to provide resources and support.
- The establishment of a proactive Local Business Assistance Resource Center that will open in the nearby area to serve as a one-stop shop for resources and support to businesses impacted by the I-10 freeway. It will be open today and tomorrow from 10:00 AM-4:00 PM at Young’s Market Company
Bass and her office took urgent, continuous efforts to expedite the repair and alleviate the traffic impacts of the closure on communities and commuters alongside state and local leaders – and that shows on Monday morning, just days before Thanksgiving.
City News Service and Associated Press contributed to this report.